The US is reeling with a massive protest across its cities over the murder of George Floyd, a black American, by the state Police. However, the murder is only a proximate cause. The underlying causes are deeply rooted in the historical injustices done to the Black Americans and a failure to redress them. The people were brooding resentments and this incident has brought them together to pour their emotions infront of the world. A brief look into America's discriminatory past might help us understand the ongoing development in a more conspicuous way.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” . That was the first sentence of the preamble of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 but life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were the prerogatives of only the Whites. It seemed that the creator’s endowment was hoarded, if only there was ever a creator.
“…….All persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free”.. That was from the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. The Confederate states seceded from the Union and the civil war had begun. The proclamation actually aimed at preserving the Union rather than abolishing the slavery. The proclamation explicitly stated that only those held as slaves in the rebellious states were to be set free. Though this was meant to weaken the military of confederate forces by depriving them of Black slave labor, the civil war now had a different flavor and soon after the end of the Civil war in 1865, slavery was abolished all over the US.
However, the segregation was still wide spread. In response to the amendments of the US constitution to favor Blacks, the disgruntled white supremacists enacted a set of racial segregation laws known as the Jim Crow to continue with the practice of racial discrimination against the Blacks. The Jim Crow laws were challenged in the court but in 1896 the US Supreme Court held it constitutional. The apex court argued that since the laws were meant only to separate blacks and whites but not to create unequal facilities, it didn’t violate the constitution. On the contrary, separate facilities for the blacks were always abysmally unequal. The Court further added that the Blacks thinking of being treated as inferiors by the Jim Crows purely came out of their own unfounded constructions. By this the Supreme Court meant that the Blacks weren’t treated inferiors by the Jim Crows but it only seemed so because the Blacks thought so. If a 21st century Supreme Court were to provide a judgement along the same lines, it would have met with the furies of millions of hashtags on twitter.
It was only after the Second World War that the Jim Crow was made to rest in peace albeit gradually. The Civil Rights Movement brought a number of reforms to place Black Americans on equal legal footing with the White Americans.
Notwithstanding the legal reforms, the dregs of racism remains till date. The form of racism is more often tacit and hence becomes hard to challenge in the court of law. Due to the historical and prolonged segregation, the representation of Black Americans in different government institution is insufficient which further adds to their inconvenience when dealing with a system. There is some de facto and as well as some de jure immunity provided to the police personnel. Since the White population forms more than majority of the police force, the institutional safeguard for a crime committed by a police personnel has only encouraged the abuse of the Black Americans.
The supremacist ideology forms a big chunk of the problem. This is the same old ideology which enabled transportation of Black Africans to other parts of the world for the sole purpose of slavery. You can kill a law, you can erase writings from a paper but an idea remains wired up in the brain. You don’t necessarily need a written code to preach an idea. However, with each impediment to this ideology of hate, the subsequent generation has learned to value love and promote inclusion. This has been a cumulative effort of number of generations. The 18th century’s American Revolution questioned morality of the people who claimed all men to be born free and equal but practised exactly otherwise. The 19th century’s American Civil War ended by abolishing slavery. The 20th Century Civil Rights movement resulted in placing the Blacks and the Whites equal before eyes of the law and what is happening now in the 21st century’s America is going to fragment the remaining pieces of supremacist ideas into further smaller ones.